See Also:
Exercise and CHF

Want to Know More?
See Also:
Useful Links

What Is Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart becomes less efficient as a pump. Less oxygen-rich blood is available to the major organs and tissues of the body.

If it's not treated, heart failure is likely to become steadily or rapidly worse. With treatment, however, the symptoms of heart failure can be reduced, and most people feel better.

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, it is important to follow our advice about lifestyle changes and taking medication. Feel free to come to us with any questions you might have.

What Causes Heart Failure?
Heart Failure has many causes. It is most often caused by:
  • Coronary heart disease (which may lead to a heart attack)
  • Heart muscle disorders, resulting from various causes such as:
    • Viral Infections
    • Alcohol abuse
    • Drug Abuse
    • Chemotherapy
    • Rheumatic fever (even as a child)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart valve disease
In some cases, the exact cause of heart failure cannot be found. Heart failure for unknown reasons is called idiopathic cardiomyopathy.

Symptoms of Heart Failure
Many people experience some of the following symptoms of heart failure:
  • Shortness of breath on exertion (dyspnea).

  • Waking up breathless (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea).

  • Trouble breathing when lying down or going to sleep (orthopnea).

  • Fatigue or weakness.

  • Swollen feet or ankles.

  • Weight changes.

  • Angina (pain or pressure in the chest).

  • Decreased appetite or bloating in the abdomen (belly).

  • Cough.

  • Dizziness or fainting.

  • Palpitations (heartbeats that are forceful, rapid, slow, or irregular).

  • Abnormal breathing sounds (rales).

The first symptoms of heart failure may occur during physical activity. Normally, the heart beats faster during exercise, but the failing heart beats faster at rest.

The muscles of the body tire much sooner than usual. There may be fatigue or shortness of breath. It may become necessary to use extra pillows in order to breathe comfortably at night.

Call us immediately if you are experiencing any of the following warning signals:
  • Difficulty breathing when lying flat.
  • Decreased urination.
  • Unusual weight gain or loss.
  • Swollen ankles, feet, hands.
  • Chest pain.
  • Irregular heart beat.
Excess Fluid and Heart Failure
Excess fluid can cause a number of symptoms in people who have heart failure:
  • Normally, the kidneys filter the blood and remove excess fluid, along with salts and other waste.

  • When the heart is not pumping efficiently, less blood than usual reaches the kidneys. This causes fluid to build up in the blood.

  • When fluids build up in the blood, some of it seeps through the walls of the blood vessels, making the surrounding tissue swell.

  • In the daytime, this fluid tends to collect around the feet and ankles. This is called edema.

  • At night, or when you take the weight off your feet, the extra fluid flows from your feet to the rest of your body. If fluid collects in your lungs, it can cause coughing and gasping for air.

  • Excess fluid may cause you to urinate more often. We may prescribe medication called a diuretic to reduce excess fluids.

Useful Links
  1. Understanding Heart Failure
    American Heart Association has prepared series of online brochures discussing congestive heart failure. The site discusses how common and serious the condition is, its diagnosis and treatmen. Other topics include diets, lifestyle changes, taking care of people with heart failure and more. Be sure to visit this site if you want to know about CHF.

  2. Congestive Heart Failure Data Sheet
    If you are looking for statistics collected about congestive heart failure, you must visit this site produced by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It covers such CHF topics as incidence, prevalence, prognosis, and hospitalizations.

  3. Heart Failure Society of America
    Heart Failure Society of America provides extensive information on living with heart failure. Patient education section incluudes the fundamental information about the disease, its diagnosis, and treatment. It also includes a short online video on the topic.
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